Toronto housing officials say four “highly sophisticated pre-fabricated structures” will be purchased at a cost of $2.5 million each to help accommodate the growing demand for homeless shelters in the city.
“Staff will pilot the use of four temporary structures as 24-hour respite sites for the upcoming winter season,” said Paul Raftis, general manager of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration division, during a press conference Wednesday morning.
“This is a cost-effective way to both increase capacity quickly and improve service quality.”
Officials say the new structures, which will be placed in strategic locations across the city, including west and east of the downtown core, will be fully accessible and equipped with washrooms, showers, laundry facilities and HVAC systems that make them comfortable in all seasons.
“These highly sophisticated pre-fabricated structures are being used in communities across Canada, United States, and around the world for a range of purposes, including temporary housing, emergency shelters, churches, arctic stations, aquatic centres, gyms, classrooms and fire stations,” Raftis said.
“A local example in Toronto is a school that is using one of these structures as a gymnasium and they also plan to expand this to include an aquatic centre.”
The city plans to begin installing the structures in vacant areas in August.
“We’re looking for large vacant areas that would be parking lot type areas where you can put these because you want to have a proper hard foundation for it to sit on top,” Raftis said.
“So they are very flexible in terms where you can put them around the city, assuming you had the appropriate sized parking lot or space to put them. We’re not targeting putting these in parks.”
In recent months, residents in North York have raised concerns about a respite centre that opened in the Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue area.
The Don Mills Civitan Arena was chosen by the City of Toronto earlier this year to be one of two temporary homeless shelters in an effort to address the ongoing shelter crisis. But some in the community told Global News that placing a shelter in a residential area is inappropriate and unsafe, which then sparked criticisms of NIMBYism.
City officials said Toronto has seen an unprecedented demand for respite services over the last 18 months, with an increase of 40 per cent in the number of people looking for shelter space.
Due to a harsh winter, the city had to open additional warming centres to house the homeless and further promised to add hundreds of beds to the shelter system.
City statistics showed occupancy rates during the winter months reached 96 per cent of total capacity at many shelter locations.
VIDEO: Local concern over plans for North York respite centre
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